Words by: Stratton Lawrence | Images by: Aaron Williams
STS9 :: 12.28.07 - 12.31.2007 :: The Tabernacle :: Atlanta, GA
Flask of Makers for the lot? Check. Guy in a patchwork cape with "Womp Womp" emblazoned across it? Oh yeah. Cab on two wheels with a driver who looks over and says, "Drive it 'til the wheels fall off!" Scarily enough, yes. Party glasses? Hell yeah. The last time I got this excited on New Year's Eve it involved George Clinton, a full marching band emerging from a mini BMW and Trey Anastasio yelling, "Feel, feel, feel my heat!"
| STS9 :: 12.31.07 :: Atlanta|
I've been in Atlanta for every annual turnover since those four Phishy nights in Miami, and each year I've been blown away to the point that I keep planning my trek back to The Tabernacle. Maybe it's the venue, where I watched liquor bottles shake off the balcony bar during 2005's "Tap In." The old church is definitely conducive to moving the spirit. Maybe it's knowing that STS9 is home, fresh off Christmas with their families, ready to go balls out with old friends. Mostly, it's knowing that if I'd been anywhere else, I'd have missed something better.
The three-night buildup going into New Year's Eve got bigger and better every show. By the "Luma Daylight," "Tokyo," "Breathe In" second set on the 28th, it was clear they wanted us to feel, feel, feel that special heat. When that night's "Circus" encore seemed to peter out at the end, the perception was they were saving juice for the long haul rather than cashing out early.
That assumption proved correct. If night two was a full-on dance party, the 30th was a full-body explosive assault. Sometime during "Evasive Maneuvers" I realized I was seeing the best light show I'd ever seen at any event, ever. This year's setup featured an LED strip circling the band, which stood amidst spinning pinwheels, raindrops that danced and five massive vertical beams behind the stage. No less than 50 multicolored, strategically placed beams were layered all the way to the ceiling.
| David Murphy - STS9 :: 12.31.07 :: Atlanta|
After watching the lights churn into a strobe frenzy during the "Baraka" encore on night three (arguably the crowd/band energy high point of the weekend), I thought about the thrill the band must get from looking out at thousands of people moving in undulating unison - most hands in the air, people hanging precariously over the balconies and all with ecstatic smiles stretched across their faces.
"Y'all been blowin' it up in here," said bassist David Murphy as the band took the stage on night four. They proceeded to drop a set that constantly jumped between meandering melodies and heavy beats. "986 Foot Tall Trees" set the mood as David Phipps built up a keyboard crescendo before moving into a fairly chill "Pianoir" and "We'll Meet in our Dreams." As the lights pulsed through an eye-boggling rainbow during "Dreams," the band hit a step that carried into a groove-party "Hi-Key" and an even hotter "Move My Peeps." Set break began with Murph saying, "We thought we'd smooth y'all in," and promised things would get rowdy.
And "rowdy" is the only word for what followed. The synth bass on "Instantly" got downright dirty, and "Monkey Music" featured the night's funkiest improv. The breakdown on "Really Wut" hit hard, and "Kaya" soared before a set-ending new song that featured guitarist Hunter Brown on a roving scale with the band rocking as hard as they could behind the melody.
| Lerner & Brown - STS9 :: 12.31.07 :: Atlanta|
After a sample-heavy "Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature," Murph led the countdown to 2008, saying, "Running this thing in our own time because we live in our own time." White balloons and a frenetic light explosion gave way to another debut led by Brown playing a beautiful arpeggio-filled melody. Both new tunes show plenty of promise and will likely grow into more elaborate pieces.
For the home stretch, the band dropped the dirtiest "Lo Swaga" I've ever heard, followed by an "Arigato" that slipped seamlessly into a "Blu Mood" that peaked twice. The "Rent," "One A Day," "Be Nice" trio that closed the set was full-on foot floating, dance party madness.
The encore, "Inspire Strikes Back," may not have been a hard guess but as a closer to four ridiculous nights it was perfect. The lights strobed and erupted, drummer Zach Velmer gave his tom a frenzied beating, and Phipps got down on the keys like the world was ending.
A couple of hours into 2008, as I sat on the corner soaking in the pure fire I'd absorbed over four consecutive nights, a dreaded smiling hippie walked past me, then turned back to put a crystal into my hand without a word. I clutched the shining rock in my palm and realized whatever changes time brings to STS9, the spirit behind the music remains constant.
My first STS9 show was at The Tabernacle just before Christmas 2001. On the drive back to Charleston on New Year's Day 2008, I realized that NYE had been my 25th Sound Tribe show. They've evolved and grown to levels that left me awestruck several times over this run, and I was craving more by the time we crossed the Georgia line. STS9 continues to redefine the crowd/band/environment relationship, and after this week it's clear they're ready to graduate to bigger venues while maintaining the same intimate intensity they've worked so hard to cultivate. I swore the walls of The Tabernacle would explode outward several times over the run, and you can bet I'll be there the first time that Sector 9 lifts off at Hampton Coliseum.
| STS9 :: 12.31.07 :: Atlanta|
Set 1: Music, Us, 986 Foot Tall Trees, Pianoir, We'll Meet In Our Dreams, Hi-Key, Move My Peeps
Set 2: Instantly, Monkey Music, Really Wut?, Kaya, Untitled
Set 3: The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature, Untitled (NYE countdown), Lo Swaga, Arigato > Blu Mood, Rent, One a Day, Be Nice
Encore: Inspire Strikes Back
Set 1: Moon Socket > Hubble, Wika Chikana, H. B. Walks to School, Four Year Puma, Tap-In, Quests, Evasive Maneuvers
Set 2: Tooth, This Us, Grow > Open E, Peoples, Aimlessly
Set 1: Ghobi, Big Little Scenario > Abcees, Kamuy, Once Told, You Don't Say, Mobsters > Surreality > EB
Set 2: GLOgli, Bigs, Somesing, Dem Be, Ramone & Emiglio, From Now On
Set 1: Musical Story, Yes > The Rabble > F. Word, ReEmergence, STS9, Warrior, Untitled, Mischief of a Sleepwalker
Set 2: 1103, Luma Daylight > Tokyo, By the Morning Sun > Orbital, Breathe In
Continue reading for more images of STS9 on NYE...